I did a few podcasts last week that may be worth your time if you’re into that sort of thing.
The first one, Episode 3 of my podcast Talking About Practice, is actually not Pacer-related at all, per se, but it does get into some subject matter that we have been and will continue talking about around these parts. Essentially, what it comes down to is efficiency.
See, basketball is a simple sport. On each possession, the offense tries to score. And the defense tries to stop them for doing that. The more times the offense succeeds, the better chances they have to win. So they are trying to maximize those possessions and use them as, wait for it, efficiently as possible. The defense’s goal would thus be the inverse.
No team has embraced this concept as much as the Houston Rockets and they have gone to great lengths to determine how NBA offenses can become more efficient and, conversely, how defenses can prevent them from doing this. Shane Battier is the poster child for this concept, and he has used the vast array of film, game charting data and advanced statistical analysis that the Rockets franchise — and most NBA franchises these days — now rigorously gather and crunch to significantly enhance the way he plays defense.
Basically, we’re talking about a whole new level of looking at the game and trying to figure out things like when (in the shot clock), where (specifically on the floor) and why (players do what they do to make) offenses succeed. Only it’s all much, much more complex than that and is so advanced that private game-charting/video companies like Synergy Sports and even teams like the Rockets really won’t even tell the outside world about everything they are doing. It’s too proprietary and too confidential.
Us mere mortals discuss this efficiency stuff in terms of eFG% and Defensive Ratings. And that’s what we do around here to some degree — while also fully realizing that these new stats are just tools to help us explain some of the stuff that happens on the court and not some sort of Holy Grail. In the grand scheme of things, even these more-refined resources are still too-blunt tools incapable of replacing the softer analysis that can only come from actually watching the game in depth.
So, all that was a long way of saying that me and Chris Ballard, who is a columnist for Sports Illustrated columnist and wrote the wonderful book The Art of a Beautiful Game talked a lot about this stuff. We start off talking about some of the other stuff in his book, but get into all that Rocket/Battier stuff about 20ish minutes in.
(You can also subscribe to Talking About Practice via iTunes and listen that way. Ratings/reviews appreciated.)
The second podcast was the latest edition of The 8th Seed. This is something me and seven other NBA bloggers have been doing since this summer. Most of it is irreverent jokes and genuine potty-mouth tomfoolery. But there is some actual basketball insight in there. The Pacers-relevant part about comes at the 64-minute mark and while I’d love for you to listen to the whole thing, that 5 minutes of me talking Pacers is pretty much my current feelings on the team. And I’m planning to explore the whole Dahntay Jones dynamic I get into there more in-depth in a column here whenever I find the time.
If you’re into the Rockets/Battier/Ballard stuff, here’s a few other things you should familiarize yourself with. I’m still trying to figure out how to and to what degree we should include some of this stuff into the Pacers discussion at 8p9s. I mean, I don’t want to lose you guys who think all this stuff is stupid. But some of it is definitely valuable. So I suggest you check out a few of these things below. (Although Ballard’s book is just about the game in general aside from one chapter.)
- First up is Ballard’s book. The Art of the a Beautiful Game is really, really good and is probably the best, cheap present you could buy for yourself or any hoops head you know this holiday season. I did an extended review you can read here. Also, here’s an excerpt from his chapter on rebounding about Jeff Foster that you might like.
Jeff Foster, the Pacers’ relentless (and offensively challenged) center, had an unusual incentive. As a teenager at Madison High in San Antonio, his coach told the then thin and tall Foster that he wasn’t getting enough rebounds. So Jeff’s father, Stephen, made a deal with him. Instead of an allowance, he’d be paid for his board work: $1 for every rebound he got in a game, $2 for each one above 10 and $3 after 15. Soon enough, he was cleaning his dad out. Though, considering Jeff’s future, it was a bargain: In 2008-09, Foster made $6.175 million playing for the Pacers, or $12,156 for each of his 508 boards.
- The one article you need to read about advanced game charting/stats is Moneyball author Michael Lewis’ New York Times Magazine piece on Battier from last Spring. This article essentially took this whole discussion and exposed an underground world of hoops analysis to the common fan. I actually preferred Ballard’s chapter, but that is kind of like saying I prefer ice cream to birthday cake — both are excellent.
- Next up comes this NBA.com piece about how things like Synergy Sports, 82games.com, Basketball-Reference and all the other, similarly ambitioned endeavors are changing the sport. This stuff just gets crazier and more advanced by the day.
- Lastly is the stat page that Mike Kurylo of KnickerBlogger (who you might remember from the Pacers/Knicks preview on 8p9s) has dubbed his “Layman’s Guide to Advanced Statistics.” This guy has been focusing on this stuff for a long time now as anyone, and he really knows how to break it all down in (relatively) plain English.
Tags: Talking About Practice